William Hyde Wallaston was born in Norfolk, England in 1766. He grew up with 16 siblings. Wallaston graduated with a medical degree from Cambridge and began his own practice. Due in part to deteriorating eyesight, Wallaston left his practice to pursue his own research.
Wallaston had a strong interest in chemistry. Along with Smithson Tennant, he discovered how to make platinum malleable enough to work and mold. In the process he found two new elements, rhodium and palladium. Wallaston's work with platinum yielded much profit and gave him financial security. He also began to support numerous scientific projects. Wallaston went on to invent the goniometer, a piece of equipment used to measure the angles of crystal in minerals. He was also one of the first to recognize ultraviolet radiation and the first to see dark absorption lines in the spectrum.